JLife speaks to Stas Zaslavsky, CEO of Israeli platform developer Vii-Events, to discover the strategy for bringing his business to the UK market.
Vii-Events is highly creative virtual events platform that uses a 3D hyper-realistic graphical engine to imitate the in-person event experience. Events can be as extraordinary and as outlandish as your imagination allows – the platform has even hosted an event on the moon! Founded in January 2020, the Tel-Aviv based startup has risen to become one of the world’s leading platforms. It has since secured an official business development partnership with Stuart Mitchell of Manchester-based industry connector Catch the MICE to bring its multi award-winning platform to the lucrative UK Meetings Incentives Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) market.
Hi Stas, tell us how you came to start Vii-Events.
By studying the APAC market at the start of the virus outbreak, we recognised that events were going to become highly affected by COVID-19, with in-person experiences being cancelled and postponed. It was obvious to us that the industry would undergo significant virtualisation in order to survive. Working with an illustration startup at the time, we quickly realised we had the expertise to make this a reality. We leveraged our web development, 3D modelling and rendering skills and the Vii-Events was born. We have since managed to successfully deliver approximately 300 virtual events in Israel alone on our platform and are currently expanding our sights globally.
Can the platform work in the social events sector?
We have delivered parties, concerts as well as many simchas. One particularly memorable celebration was a bespoke 3D environment design for the Jewish Agency for Israel, called Teenfest2Gether. This was a global event with over 2,000 guests predominantly from the UK and US which included a concert featuring Eurovision winner Netta Barzilai. We’re really excited about our recent partnership with Catch the MICE, as it has recently delivered its first hybrid wedding event from a Mayfair hotel. This included a private ‘meet the family’ event the night prior to the wedding, a live stream of the ceremony itself, and an interactive wedding breakfast celebration. We are looking to replicate this on our platform in the future.
Israel is known around the world as the startup nation – what do you think is the driving force that sets it apart from other countries, particularly the UK?
The Israeli government invests significantly in the startup environment, providing grants and tax incentives to fund early-stage development. There are many different government agencies supporting programmes under the Israel Innovation Authority. However, I personally believe that much of this startup innovation should be credited to our military service system. Many of the technological founders in Israel, including myself, are graduates of elite technological units.
When you are in the army, you learn how to improvise and think on your feet. It is those skills that help you solve problems which, in time, help create a profitable business. Since military service is compulsory, you can imagine why so many companies are founded in Israel each year.
That being said, the Jewish people have extraordinary minds that allow them to dream creatively. If their convictions are nurtured with the right conditions, it can give rise to so much innovation, seen widely in other fields. It is no surprise that almost a quarter of Nobel prize winners are Jewish!
How did you find the experience of exporting your business to our market?
The UK is one of the leading lights within the global events world. We certainly have a very different cultural approach to the way we do business in Israel, and businesses need a partner on the ground that is both a strong ambassador and understands the nuances of the market. When we first met Stuart Mitchell earlier this year, we knew immediately that we wanted to work with him. Stuart knows the UK events market well and having represented and operated in hotels, venues and events for over three decades, it made absolute sense to partner with him. He has a wealth of contacts and experience that provided huge synergy to our offering.
We have already delivered a number of prestigious events for high-profile organisations from the UK, however this partnership opens more doors for growth. We are planning to attend a number of tradeshows in the coming months and Stuart will be attending on our behalf.
The UK has always been a logical bridge into Europe for Israeli companies – have recent events impacted this?
As much as Brexit was initially a concern, we believe it was merely a distraction compared with the tsunami that was to come with the pandemic. That being said, the pandemic was in many ways good for us, as it provided the stimulus for innovation. The challenge now is to read how the differing stages of the pandemic, across global territories, will affect our business model and continue to adapt to this shift.
For UK businesses looking towards Israel for partnerships, how would you recommend they approach this?
Our UK partner, Stuart Mitchell, recognised we had an outstanding product early on and made a direct approach. He gave me his honest opinion of our product, but also identified areas of weakness; which, to be fair, I accepted and have subsequently rectified. It was this honest approach that I respected.
As a business owner, you get approached on a regular basis with companies trying to sell you their services. Occasionally you get a good feeling that you can work with that person, especially when their approach is backed up with research and tangible experience. That’s when the magic happens – and we recommend all businesses to partner with experts to be part of their team to help them negotiate new territories.
A word of business advice when looking at developing new markets? Honestly, speak directly, don’t be afraid to bargain, and strike while the iron is hot!
To learn more about Vii-Events, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07771 946 614